Hey there bleaders,
I forgot it was Wednesday yesterday, or rather I forgot this particular meaning of Wednesday yesterday. So I post today.
I've been thinking about coffee in the age of financial collapse. Let me cut and paste a passage from my book The Happiness Myth (it's sort of a cultural anthropology of us), and then add a thought about the present. To wit:
Coffee vendors have reconstructed the meaning of the drug in every age. The French café was the center of the later-Enlightenment and the democratic revolutions. People drank espresso there and got a lot done. Early twentieth-century America treated the coffee shop, with its weak “American” brew, as a place to rest. Remember the “coffee break”? Coffee was recharging you, but it was also relaxing you. That had to do with the non-work setting of the coffee shop (no laptop computers, no kids), and the low-caffeine levels of the drink. You wanted a small cup of weak brew because you wanted the waitress to come back and pour you another hot cup, and chat for a moment. Someone who comes to you, unbidden, with a hot drink and also offers pie is a mother, or a sister, or a sweetheart. She takes you seriously; she watched you to see when you were finished. This was about home and rest. Present-day coffee bars provide strong coffee again and offer themselves as offices and child care centers—bring your own computer or toddler. At most of them, like in a nightmare of bureaucracy, the person who brings you your drink is not the person who took your order. This coffee place is not to be mistaken for a home: it is a place of efficiency. The method often slows things down, but it looks like an assembly line of individual service and that’s what felt right about it as it expanded across America and showed up on every city block through the 1990s. The values of the modern coffee bar are clear: you can stay forever if you’re working, but even with a purchased latte on the table in front of you, you are not supposed to take a nap.
The Happiness Myth came out in paper this time last year. Now that capitalism is hitting us all on the head with pennies from just a few flights up (imagine how much they'd hurt from heaven) it seems worth a quick revisit. If libraries everywhere are feeling the strain of the exploding economy (as the NYTimes reported recently), think of the strain on Starbucks. People sitting around pretending to still be part of the work force, having informal meetings to keep up networking, scanning the web for jobs, and pretending to be doing that but really spending most of the day playing on the internets. And now this crowd has no disposable income for more than an old time cup of joe, or one fancy drink sipped real real slow. The nation may switch back to wanting coffee to be weak enough to let them while away and afternoon daydreaming about what money can't buy.
Love and kisses,
p.s. Visit me at my blog, if you want, it's called Dear Fonzie. It is kind of a nonsense space. Also I'll be part of the Library of Dust event this Monday. Also, if you want to see what went on at that last thing I mentioned I was doing, it is here. We were all a little cranky I think, from an awkward first attempt at conversation that had just started behind the scenes as the event was about to begin. But despite that it was an exciting and strange and at time riveting conversation (I say this from memory, I have not yet braved up and watched it myself).